Monday, June 6, 2022

Is this really the life God planned for me?

I recently saw the following quote posted on social media.

I understand that the person who posted this meant for it to be inspirational, and as a reassurance that God knows what is going on in our lives, even when they seem out of control.

The problem with it is that, when carefully examined, the quote espouses a deterministic view of how God interacts with His human creatures, that God foreordains and sets in motion every single detail of each person's life. It implies that the untimely death of a child was orchestrated by God and part of what He wanted for that child's family. It would seem to indicate that the horrific events of mass shootings in the spring of 2022, including the deaths of 19 elementary school children in Uvalde, Texas, were "exactly the way God planned" for those families' lives to be. 

From another angle, the sentiment expressed in these words could be interpreted as meaning that even when we make bad, sinful choices that result in painful consequences, it was somehow God's will and plan that we would make those choices in order to suffer those consequences. 

Jeremiah 32:35 says:
They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molek, though I never commanded—nor did it enter my mind—that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin.
God did not command that the people of Judah commit this idolatry. In fact, He says the thought never even crossed His mind. The people's sin and the pain it brought was not "exactly the way God planned" for things to turn out. It was, in fact, diametrically opposed to His will and plan.

Some may respond to my argument here with the question, "But isn't God sovereign?" Yes, He is. But we need to look at what sovereignty actually means in the Bible. It doesn't mean that God meticulously plans, ordains, and controls every minute detail of what happens in our lives. It means that He is the King, the final authority, and that He gets the last word. Yet God, in His sovereignty, has decided that we are free to make the decision to live according to His instructions or not. Sometimes, other people's decisions to go against God's instructions has an effect on us -- take Adam and Eve, for example, whose disobedience threw the entire cosmos off kilter, with the entirety of humanity throughout history having to deal with the fallout of that one act in Genesis 3. 

The good news of God's sovereignty isn't that "my life is going exactly the way God planned," but knowing that even when our lives are totally out of control, tossed and thrown about by things that are certainly not what God wants for His children (and at times as a result of our own sinful choices), He is still able to bring good out of the most terrible situations. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. -- Romans 8:28
Note that it doesn't say that God sends all things that come our way, but that in everything He s working for the good of those who love Him. 

We can rest assured that He is watching over us and working for us as we seek to be faithful to Him in response to His gracious gift. And even though we may not see everything tied up with a neat bow this side of eternity, we know that there awaits us the restoration of all things in the new heavens and new earth.

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